China's human rights issue has received a great deal of attention since the 1989 Tiananmen Square incident. How the news media cover human rights is important for a number of reasons beyond simply informing the public. However, the research on the nature of the Western media coverage of the Chinese human rights issue is largely absent. This article examines the nature of the European transnational media coverage of this issue from 1989 to 2005 and explores the factors influencing the development of coverage. The finding shows that there is little connection between the real world human rights situation in China measured by NGOs and the media coverage. Based on the analysis of western government policy and interviews with journalists, the article further argues that news values, the growing prominence of economic issues in media agenda and the sensitivity of diplomatic and political conflict are the factors that drive human rights reporting.